Iowa Summer Rep
History of Iowa Summer Rep
The University of Iowa's professional repertory theatre company, Iowa Summer Rep, represents a rich tradition of nearly a century of summer theatre at UI. Beginning with Edward C. Mabie's arrival on campus in 1920, summer play production became a regular feature at the University of Iowa. In the early 1920s, summer productions were part of the Drama Department curriculum and performances were given by a community/university group called The Out-of-Door Players. Performances were presented at several locations including City Park, the slope to the west of Old Capitol, and the Quadrangle courtyard. Performances were so popular that one performance during the summer of 1921 was reported to have had an audience of 2,000.
Beginning in 1939 and continuing for more than 40 years, summer theatre productions were a part of the University's Fine Arts Festival, which included programs, lectures, and performances from the Departments of Art, Music, Dramatic Art, and Dance. Major art exhibitions were presented in the Iowa Memorial Union and the Art Building. E.C. Mabie Theatre was the location for theatre events, while dance, opera, and musical events were presented in MacBride Auditorium.
From 1920 through 1960, summer productions were mounted successively, one after the other. Starting in 1961, Summer Repertory Theatre was established and presented four plays simultaneously in an alternating rep, providing audiences the opportunity to see actors performing in a variety of roles. In 1984, Iowa Summer Rep presented its first single-playwright season, offering a unique focus in American summer theater. In 2000, Summer Rep also became an Actors' Equity Company, elevating its status as a professional theater company.
While many things have changed in the rich history of summer play production at Iowa—and attending a performance no longer costs a dime as it did in 1923—Iowa Summer Rep has provided a unique and exciting gathering place for the community, whose continued presence and support has inspired a tradition of excellence.